B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

Monthly Archives: February 2018

The mother of all memos: A social media stunt gone lame – so expect more

The Devin Nunes House Intelligence Committee memo criticizing the FBI and Department of Justice handling of its Russia investigation is a laugh riot.

Erik Tarloff, screenwriter, novelist and political writer called it the Edsel of all memos. It makes Crystal Pepsi look like crystal meth. “Nothing-burger” was so overused to describe its contents, the term “Nunes-burger” was invented, work more productive than anything wrought by the memo.

Much of the memo is erroneous. It presents the FISA court as accepting a high-level of legal scrutiny, when it’s the opposite – 99 percent of indictments and warrants before the court have been approved, before the court’s existence was revealed, it had never refused a warrant or indictment.

This is only one subject of many that’s false. The memo not only reveals nothing new, but bulwarks the work of the FBI. It obfuscates the intelligence gathered by Christopher Steele as being politically motivated, and then there’s Carter Page, who seems a victim of being on the Trump transition team, when in fact he had been under FBI investigation since 2013. None of this is mentioned in the memo, which seems more as fodder for the Trump base, Hannity and talk radio as a bulwark against the coming Mueller findings.

It does none of that. Some Republicans have criticized the nature of releasing classified material, even though much of this information – which was gathered by the FBI – has been dug up by media for months. It tries to draw a direct line between Christopher Steele and the DNC, who funded the later part of his intelligence through a subsidiary. But Steele didn’t know who was funding him, and his investigation was initially funded by a conservative media outlet.

After a year of daily Trump bombs on Twitter, on the front page of the New York Times, of Hannity and Tucker Carlson losing their minds on television, the GOP as a whole has rallied around its president, a mistake that’s beginning to look fatal with the 2018 elections closing and Trump’s approval dropping in the states that put him over the top in electoral votes.

I don’t expect the right to back down, or admit a mistake. They’ll claim this a victory and up the ante. Whatever distortions they can make about Steele, the DOJ, DOS and FBI they’ll make in any effort to keep public pressure off Congress to impeach the president once Mueller’s findings are revealed. That effort starts by claiming Democrats are behind the Russia allegations, or some “deep state” actors who “fear the draining of the swamp” or some “Washington political and media elitists.”

The fact Trump and Congress are so defiant to norms and vitriolic in their approach supposes there’s more to Russia’s involvement in the election, and more to Trump and his relationship with Putin and the Russians. These aren’t actions of someone who is conscious of being innocent.

The next move could be attacks on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton is a punching bag Trump hasn’t left alone since last November. Obama is still hated by the Trump base, and contriving some conspiracy between them and the deep state as 2016 was coming to an end and Trump as coming into office seems a hackneyed enough lie, they’ll throw it at the wall to see if it sticks.

Have a happy 2018.